2011 Manchester Road Race

What a fantastic day at the Manchester Road Race. Nearly 15,000 runners were bathed in brilliant sunshine for the 75th anniversary of this incredible race. This year, the vibe was even better thanks to all of the anniversary celebrations. The festivities started last weekend with the Little Manchester Road Race. It was great to have my Manchester Road Race memories chronicled on the front page of Tuesday’s Hartford Courant. The temperature was cold, but the sunshine warmed everyone up. More than 30,000 people lined the streets to cheer on the runners. It was thrilling. This was my 16th MRR in a row and I think my 21st overall.

Debbie and I ran and the Schieffer Family watched our kids and the race. This grand tradition continues. My race was ho-hum. I had a crazy work week and with the added stress, I was a little “off” going into this morning’s 4.748 mile event. I really wanted to break 27 minutes, but fell short by 9 seconds. I ran my fastest MRR (27:00) two years ago and was close to the magic number in 2010 and again today. I know a lot of folks would kill for a 27-something race, but I’ve done this race enough times to know when I’m “on” and when I’m not. I also have high expectations and know what I’m capable of. I just haven’t put together “that race” at Manchester yet.

I told Deb after the race that 2012 is my year. I enter a new and exciting age group (gulp) next year and it is time to finally focus on this race. We just ran the Busa Bushwhack five days ago and it beat us up. It wasn’t supposed to be that way, but Busa was postponed because of the freak October snowstorm. I would have much rather rested last weekend, but we wanted to get in our 6th New England Grand Tree Trail Running Series race and I had to give it my all at the rescheduled race. I don’t know any other way. When in a race, you race.

So, today, I felt like my body was stiff. My back was bothering me yesterday and again this morning, so I just lathered on enough “start oil” with camphor to get a fire going. I’m still burning up as I type this! My legs never loosened up and I ran a slower hill than normal. I was OK on the Porter St. descent, but then faded a bit between miles 3 and 4. Brett Stoeffler caught me in the same spot as the past two years. He nabbed me at the 3 mile mark and I couldn’t hang on. It pains me to watch him go up the road because he is a master at pacing. One of these years, I’ll keep him in sight and I’ll get the time that I really want. Not this year…

Debbie had a solid race, but she was also unhappy with her speed. I thought that records might fall today, but neither the men’s winner, Brian Olinger, or the women’s winner, Sally Kipyego, were close. Still, these were amazing performances in a pressure cooker of a race. I was amazed with Don Cabral performance. He is the Glastonbury kid who was crushing all on the high school scene three short years ago. He was 6th today, which is spectacular for a local guy. He can win this thing some day, and I hope he does.

Last night, Deb, the kids, and I went to the annual pre-race pasta dinner at the Elks Club. We saw many friends and had a fun time chatting with the elite runners. I was inspired by seeing Julia Chase-Brand, who was one of the first women to compete in and finish the MRR. She “broke the gender barrier” for women’s distance running 50 years ago at the 1961 race. It gives me chills to think about that race and how she must have felt when she ran Manchester again today. There was a nice story in the New York Times and several stories in today’s Journal Inquirer.

It was great to see all of our club-mates from the Shenipsit Striders and Silk City Striders. All I can say is that the Manchester Road Race is awesome and that thinking about it brings a smile to my face.

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